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At its most basic level, a tort may be described as a civil wrong. Therefore the law of tort may be described as the body of law which determines whether, or in what circumstances one person could be liable to compensate another if that person causes harm to or invades upon the interests of the other. It is a common law based system: it has been established mainly through case law, with little interference from the legislature.

Within the law of tort, we have many different torts, one of which is negligence, which we will almost exclusively focus upon. However, there are many other torts in existence. The list isn’t static either, it gets added to and removed from. For example:

  • The tort of privacy – a ‘new’ tort – as seen in Douglas v Hello [2005]
  • The tort of deceit – as seen in Magill v Magill [2006]
  • The tort of conversion – a civil claim equivalent to theft
  • The tort of enticement – the duty of a wife to love her husband was revoked

Objectives of tort law

The law of tort has a variety of different objectives, though mainly it attempts to:

  • Promote morality
  • Correct wrongs
  • Vindicate rights
  • Deter wrongdoing – can i buy xanax in spain Motor Co [1981]” href=”″>Grimshaw v Ford Motor Co [1981] is the legendary case here
  • Promote economic efficiency – making the cost of allowing harm higher than preventing it
  • Compensate victims
  • Provide distributive justice

With these functions, it protects both people and property, economic interests, reputation and more.

Requirements of tort claims

2 requirements make up the basis of nearly all tort claims

  1. Tortious conduct – maliciousness, intent or negligence usually, though sometimes even innocence
  2. Recognisable damage/injury

Issues with tort law

In order to bring a tort claim, you must first prove that the tort occurred. You must then find the tortfeasor (your respondent). Finally, you must hope they can afford to pay. The latter two steps often create difficulty, as if you can’t find your respondent, your claim will fail while if they cannot afford to pay you, you will not get paid. This often leads to unfairness. In New Zealand, attempts to solve some of these problems are emerging, such as their no-fault compensation scheme for road traffic accidents. Here, a state-fund pays out if you fulfil the required criteria. Systems such as these may help to reduce the ‘claim culture’ Britain has regarding such claims.

Next: Tort and other areas of law

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